Head of State, SRP Talk of Good Times

Acting Sam Rainsy Party Pres­ident Kong Korm appeared on stage with Prime Minister Hun Sen during a Tuesday speech, prompting speculation that relations be­tween the opposition and ruling coalition might be improving.​​​

Hun Sen in his speech at Chak­tomuk Theater at an annual meeting on education spoke fondly of the days when he and Kong Korm served together during the Viet­namese-installed Peoples’ Republic of Kampuchea, which ran from 1979 to 1989.

Kong Korm after the speech suggested that he might be able to help negotiate opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s return to Cambodia.

“Today, His Excellency Kong Korm is here too,” Hun Sen said. “We cherish the good memories we had, even among hard times.”

“Back then you had two sets of clothes at the most,” Hun Sen said.

“When we first formed the ministries, we, together, collected stuff…. Beds were used as tables.”

Kong Korm, an opposition senator, defected to the opposition in 1993.

During the PRK, he held numerous positions and for several years was an adviser to Hun Sen, who at the time was foreign minister.

But the premier’s words, while mostly praising Kong Korm, contained the occasional jab.

“We cannot accept people saying we are ‘poorer and poorer,’” Hun Sen said. “It cannot be poorer than it was in 1979.”

“You have two houses now, right?” he jokingly asked Kong Korm.

Kong Korm after the speech said Minister of Education Kol Pheng had invited him to the event in his official capacity as senator.

“I’m proud to have a chance to meet with Samdech Premier Hun Sen,” he said. “We cannot always op­­pose each other.”

Other opposition politicians welcom­ed the en­count­er.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said Hun Sen appreciates Kong Korm as an old friend. “These kind of approaches might create a better political atmosphere,” he said.

“If the opposition and ruling party talk together it’s a good thing,” said Cambodian Center for Human Rights Director Kem Sokha. “Someone who criticizes the government is not the enemy.”

(Additional reporting by Michael Cowden)


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